Philanthropy’s Vital Role in Supporting Frontline Migrant Justice Organizations Must Start with More Funding

Written by: Jessie

In the challenging landscapes of Texas and Florida, where immigration policies directly impact migrant communities, frontline migrant justice organizations grapple with increasingly hostile environments and limited resources.  

Recent developments have exacerbated these challenges. In Texas, a federal judge’s ruling declared the DACA program unlawful, adding uncertainty over the lives of approximately 580,000 immigrant “Dreamers” who are currently enrolled in the program. This ruling not only affects the legal status and security of these individuals but also places additional pressure on frontline organizations to provide support and guidance to those impacted.  

In Florida, the implementation of one of the strictest immigration laws in the nation has brought about significant changes in the daily lives of immigrants in the state. This law criminalizes the transportation of immigrants lacking permanent legal status into the state, leading to concerns of mandatory detention and arrests for individuals who may unknowingly be at risk. Frontline organizations in Florida are faced with the challenging task of assisting immigrants in navigating these new regulations while contending with limited resources.  

As organizers, service providers, mutual aid funds and other community-based groups continue to navigate these heightened challenges, grantmakers have a unique responsibility to support their essential efforts. The first step in philanthropy’s necessary urgent response is acknowledging just how little money groups are currently receiving to handle the current political and humanitarian crisis.  



In the state of Texas, federal legislation and sympathy alone are insufficient to support immigrant and refugee communities. Harsh measures like the creation of the ‘Border Protection Unit’ and the deployment of razor-covered buoys in the Rio Grande pose serious threats to lives in a state where 1 in 5 residents is an immigrant1. 

Organizations such as La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and the Texas Civil Rights Project have emerged as frontline defenders of democracy, fighting tirelessly against these oppressive policies. However, a pressing issue persists – Texas migrant justice groups receive only half of the national funding levels they require to sustain their crucial work. 

Note: The cost of a Whataburger Whatameal varies by location and region. As of June 2023. 


NCRP’s analysis of available 2017-2020 Candid data found that frontline migrants justice organizations face an increasingly hostile environment in Texas with limited philanthropic resources. While the national average is $7 dollars per immigrant annually2, the amount is $3.50 in the state of Texas alone, which is less than the cost of a Whataburger Whatameal. Nearly 1 in 5 people in Texas are immigrants3 and less than ¼ of funding for movement organizations in Texas come from Texas based organizations4 



Florida, too, is at a critical point. Despite 1 in 5 Floridians identifies as immigrants5, the recent passage of SB1718 has introduced measures against those who originally come from other countries. This legislation makes life more difficult for all residents, but especially for those with connections to immigrant communities by mandating that hospitals report patients’ immigration statuses, and imposing penalties on those who employ or transport undocumented individuals. It also invalidates the use of IDs from their own country and even other states. 

NCRP’s analysis of available 2017-2020 Candid data found that frontline migrants justice organizations face an increasingly hostile environment in Florida with limited philanthropic resources. While the national average is $7 dollars per immigrant annually6, the amount is $1.50 in the state of Florida alone, which is less than the cost of a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich. Nearly 1 in 5 people in Florida are immigrants7 and less than ¼ of funding for movement organizations in Florida come from Florida based organizations8.



Note: The cost of a Chicken Sandwich meal varies by location and region. As of June 2023. 


Around the Nation 


While worse than some other states, funding levels in Florida and Texas mirror the numbers found at the national level.  

NCRP’s analysis of available 2017-2020 Candid data found that frontline migrants justice organizations nationwide, 8 Ivy League colleges receive over 4xx more foundation funding per year than the entire pro-Immigration and pro-refugee movement9. In Texas and Florida, where migrants’ communities face increasingly xenophobic and harmful policies, the movement is even more underfunded with Ivy League colleges collection.  

Shockingly, the amount that groups receive on the national level is less than one-fourth of the funding that goes to the eight Ivy League colleges10. 

These numbers follow the general trends that NCRP and other researchers have found with philanthropic support of the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement. As NCRP’s Stephanie Peng and Spencer Ozer have detailed, while there were some promising shifts in the funding landscape with higher philanthropic participation, the overall trend over the last ten years has seen local and national giving for immigrant and refugee justice fail to keep pace with overall grantmaking growth in the philanthropic sector.

In fact, the proportional share of pro-immigrant and pro-refugee philanthropic funding dropped by 11% in the last decade, despite a four-fold sector growth in overall giving.   

Funders also give significantly less support to immigrants and refugees with vulnerable intersecting identities, with groups focused on Black, LGBTQ, Indigenous and AAPI migrants receiving fractions of pennies for each dollar philanthropy spent in migrant justice. 

The Road Ahead 

Frontline organizations in both Texas and Florida face tremendous funding challenges as they tirelessly battle against conservative politics.  In this pivotal moment, it is crucial that grantmakers stand in solidarity with them.  

Across the nation, local organizations that are dedicated to supporting immigrants, migrants, and refugees play an indispensable role in providing essential services and combating oppressive policies. The time has come for philanthropy to do more to support these vital institutions, ensuring they have the resources they need to defend their communities, essential services, and uphold their mission. By investing in immigrant justice, we invest in a stronger, more equitable future for all communities. 

The social, political and financial burden of responding to the moment cannot fall soley on these local organizations. If you are funding local communities, it is time to ask yourself: What steps am I taking to Invest in Immigrant and refugee communities? 


Jessie is NCRP’s Digital Engagement Manager at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Digital organizer by design, community organizer by blood, sweat, and dedication. She believes in the power of digital engagement to drive lasting change, because the revolution will be televised on someone’s live feed.

Research for the attached infographics were compiled by NCRP’s Movement Research Manager Stephanie Peng and NCRP’s Research Associate Spencer Ozer from an analysis of 2017-2020 Candid data.